Review

Legion Season 3 Premiere (Chapter 20) Review: A Delightfully Surreal Debut

  • First Released Jun 23, 2019
    released
  • television


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Something for your mind.

Season 3 of Legion has premiered with "Chapter 20." The episode aired on FX recently, marking the start of the show's last season. But is it any good? Read on for our full review, and then check out our Legion Season 3 premiere breakdown.

In the crowded annals of superhero television, Legion is in a league of its own. Less cape-and-cowl crusading and more art house thought experiment, the FX original series has just kicked off its third and final season, paving the way for one last unapologetically unhinged romp through the mind of David Haller, a mentally disturbed mutant telepath who will, supposedly, one day destroy the world.

From the jump, fans will recognize that a lot has changed in the space between season 2's finale and this season's premiere. Episode 1, "Chapter 20," opens with an entirely new focus: a brand new character named Switch (Lauren Tsai) who seems locked in a sort of Wes Anderson flavored isolation. She lives with her father, present only as a face on a bulky vintage television set, in a maze-like apartment, and spends her time listening to a sort of guided self-help cassette tape giving "lessons" for time travelers. We never get any real indication of where the tapes came from or why she has them, but it's a good thing she does because as it turns out, Switch is a mutant, and time travel is her power.

In any other show, it would seem completely incomprehensible to withhold any familiar cast members from a season premiere for almost half the episode. We don't see a single character we've met before for a full 20 minutes. But in Legion, it somehow works completely, thanks largely to the show's completely magnetic self-confidence. Switch may be a completely new character, but she feels precisely like she belongs in Legion's eclectic blender of sensibilities and styles. What's more, Legion creator Noah Hawley correctly assumes that if you've stuck with the madness for two seasons already, you've become pretty familiar with the rules of the game here, so not even the impromptu musical number that crops up midway through the episode seems even the slightest bit out of place.

That aforementioned self-confidence is what carries the episode through the eventual reveal payoff--don't worry, no spoilers, but we do eventually get to see what David's been up to since we last saw him. It's a moment that seamlessly dovetails into an explanation as to why Switch is important in the bigger picture, and why David is interested in time travel in the first place. This episode never quite goes back to "business as usual" (what would "business as usual" even be for Legion, anyway?) but it does glide smoothly back into feeling more familiar with the added bonus of one new main character and a whole slew of new problems.

As with all "avant-garde" shows--especially genre-benders like Legion--there's the temptation to write off the surreality and quirkiness as weirdness for the sake of weirdness, but if anything, "Chapter 20" proves that there really is a plan in play here. Sure, it's a plan dripping in eccentricities and camp, but it's a plan nonetheless. This episode epitomizes Legion's strengths: the ability to weave actual throughlines and stories in between disco ball smattered psychedelia and psychological horror, all while deftly staying out of its own way. Once things start happening, they start happening fast. They never get any less trippy--not that we'd want them to--but they do start moving at a healthy clip. By the time the credits on this episode roll, the plan for the final season is not only immediately and abundantly clear, but well on its way forward. All we have to do now is try and keep up.

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The Good
Unapologetic self-confidence makes the weirdness work
Lauren Tsai's Switch is immediately endearing despite being new
The new status quo is both terrifying and hilarious
Full of tiny details that invite repeat viewings
The Bad
If you weren't buying what Legion is selling in Seasons 1 & 2 you won't be buying it now
9
Superb
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About the Author

Meg Downey is an Associate Entertainment Editor here at GameSpot. She loves superheroes and monsters in any combination.